Alan Titchmarsh’s Garden Secrets: review

November 12, 2010

in Media Reviews, Reviews

BBC 2 garden programme reviewed by Jane Powers and Zoe Lynch

This is another offering courtesy of twitter. The evening after the broadcast of the first programme in the series I discovered this dialogue between two friends on twitter. They have kindly given me permission to add it to thinkinGardens.  Anne Wareham

They were promised:

“Alan Titchmarsh reveals the amazing secrets behind Britain’s great gardens, examining how they continue to influence gardeners, including himself, today.”
Were they suitably amazed?

Jane Powers

It was like two programs:
1. Heroic and historic landscapes of the past.
2. How to make a poor imitation today. The sedum cubes? Oh why?

Zoe Lynch

I didn’t get the second part at all – exactly as you say … WHY? They should have just stuck with the garden history. Why do they have to turn everything into a banal makeover program? ‘Oh yes – I’ll have a trompe l’oeil window in my hedge’.

Jane Powers

And that messy, nasty stuff that Mr Hicks was doing with mirrors and apple saplings? Cramped and cluttered and demented. Whooof!

Zoe Lynch

Well,  you  expect Ivan to be a bit bonkers, but that was just tacky – the oak tree thing was as bad as HRH’s hobbit house – twee. (= “the vast amorphous shelter cum pagoda cum thing to replace a cedar tree)

Jane Powers

It’s okay to be tacky in one’s own garden (me too: pink flamingos!), but I wouldn’t recommend that other people follow my lead

Zoe Lynch

Agreed , no one should ever follow my example either!

Jane Powers

It was especially incongruous because of the heroic quality of the perspective, geometry, ostentation etc in the historic gardens.

Zoe Lynch

Not only that – but the scale/mass and void too – just no way most modern gardens can achieve that. Then to cut to that Georgian rectory as an example of what you can achieve in your front garden – what planet was he on? Modern build house gardens are smaller than the flaming parterre he was suggesting we all get!

Jane Powers

Exactly. We agree!

Jane Powers is the garden correspondent of the Irish Times. Her new bookThe Living Garden: A Place that Works with Nature, will be published in spring 2011.

The exchange promoted additional comments:

Maggie Biss

Love the comments on the programme, totally agree with them. Programme  failed to stick second half to the first. Glue long past its sell by date!

Michelle Chapman

I’m wondering if there might have been a last minute change to the programme’s content? The historical side of the programme was very good on the whole. In contrast, the makeover pieces seemed ill-conceived and rushed in their execution with very amateurish looking results.

It would have been better if they’d stuck to the garden history aspects, just like they did with Dan Cruikshank’s excellent programme recently on the history of public parks. I’d imagine garden history would have been relatively new to most of the audience, interesting to all garden lovers and we’ve had garden makeover programmes a-plenty already.

Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen

For me it was half enjoyable and half annoyable..

Elizabeth Buckley
(Elizabeth Buckley Garden Design)

A very good analysis by Jane and Zoe, I really enjoyed reading their comments.

Like them, I loved the ‘history’ part of the programme and that it actually included garden design principles.  But also, like them, I cringed at the ‘how to do DIY imitations in your own little plot’.  We don’t need it and it doesn’t work because, as Zoe says, it’s all about scale. I’d love a pleached lime avenue – but it just ain’t gonna work in my 50ft garden!  The ‘parterre’ that Alan Titchmarsh advocated looked silly in that context; rather like a municipal bedding scheme.  Why? Context!! That’s why!  I’m afraid it reminded me of the Stonehenge sequence in the movie ‘Spinal Tap’!

It’s such a shame that programmes like this have to be dumbed-down to this level.  Why do the programme-makers do it?  Do they think their audience are stupid and have the attention span of a goldfish?  I can only conclude that they must do.  Or is it that this is how programmes are now pitched to a consumerist society that simply can’t wait to rush down to B&Q or their local garden centre to get the latest must-have trompe l’oeil archway for their garden?  It must be good because the man on the telly said so.

For me where the programme failed was that instead of helping viewers to understand the design principles and how they might apply them, they focussed on design elements, e.g. the parterre that wasn’t a parterre.  Hello programme-makers, design principles and design elements are different things and you cannot achieve good garden design by shoving in poor imitations on a tiny scale of elements that were used in the grand gardens of history.  It just looks silly and tacky.  Capiche?!

Jo Thompson

How to sneak Ground Force back onto the screens again without anybody noticing what was going on.

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